Book Raves and Faves

imagesIsland of Thieves by Josh Lacey. Lots of kids — boys especially — ask me for really exciting books. Go No Further! This modern buried treasure adventure reads like an Indiana Jones thriller — excitement jumps off every page! There are good guys, bad guys, car chases, boat sinkings, shoot outs, exotic settings, foreign mobsters, a treasure map puzzle, 15th century pirates’ gold, a very eccentric uncle, and no parents in sight… Yes, Tom’s parents have left him with his Uncle Harvey for the week while they go on their first vacation without children for fifteen years. When Tom discovers that his uncle is about to go off on an adventure in South America without him, Tom pulls a few strings of his own, and suddenly the adventure of his lifetime is in front of him. Only he didn’t think it would be so, well, TERRIFYING! It is his uncle, after all… How could they get into such life-threatening scrapes? If you don’t read this book in one sitting, the librarian will give you your money back. What money? Why the Pirate’s gold, of course…

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heroHero on a Bicycle by Shirley Hughes. After I read Number the Stars by Lois Lowry, I was desperate for more information or another book about Europe in World War II. The book I read next was a true book about the Danish Resistance to Nazi Germany. But if this book– Hero on a Bicycle had been published then, it would have been a great choice too! Author Shirley Hughes takes us to Italy, near Florence, where the young narrator, Paolo, lives with his mother, sister, and cook. His father has gone off to be part of the Italian Resistance — men who live in the hills like bandits — who swoop down on the German soldiers, make raids, and then disappear back into the hills. They are called Partisans; most of the Italian citizens secretly approve of them and support them when they can, but it is a dangerous business supporting enemies of Germany (and their own Italian government). Thirteen-year-old Paolo longs for excitement; the war is boring and his father is gone. So he rides his bicycle into town at night in secret, not knowing the trouble and adventure his bicycle will get him into when the Partisans ask his mother to hide two prisoners of war who have escaped from German camps. Exciting, dangerous, and based on a true story, the author lived in Florence right after World War II and knew that she would tell this story some day. Don’t start this book late, or you will be up all night finishing it!

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The Underland Chronicles by Suzanne Collins

Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins. Suzanne Collins is famous for the Hunger Games series. Gregor the Overlander is her “other” series, but quite honestly, I almost liked it better. Set in New York City,it is an animal fantasy of a world down under. Gregor falls through a a grate in the laundry room of his apartment building and lands in the dark world below peopled by giant rats, cockroaches, spiders, bats, and just the kind of critters you would expect to live in the Underland.

Don’t be turned off by the icky sounding characters! Bats are not my favorite animals, and I certainly hope to never meet a talking rat, but Gregor and his two year old sister, Boots, valiantly befriend some of these strange animals who carry them off to meet the pale, wide-eyed humans who also live there. Underland is on the brink of war, and it seems Gregor is part of a strange prophecy; his coming has been predicted. Gregor is a reluctant hero — he doesn’t particularly like the creepy, dark world either — but he soon discovers that staying might be the only way to find his father, who disappeared suddenly many months ago…

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The Penderwick's series

The Penderwicks’ series

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall is absolutely one of my favorites. The four sisters and their friend, Jeffrey (the interesting boy mentioned in the title of the first book) are delightful. They make elegant plans that often fall flat and cause merriment, humor, and angst. (The first book in the series won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.) And when you’ve finished number three, The Penderwicks at Point Mouette and you put it down with a happy sigh, you will soon think, “Well, where is book 4?” According to Jeanne Birdsall’s web site, there are 5 books scheduled in the series, and # 4 will be out in 2015… We can’t wait!

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imagesChicken Feathers by Joy Cowley is just plain feather-flapping fun! Even if you don’t like chickens, you’ll think Semolina, the talking chicken is funny. A talking chicken! Josh knows it sounds ridiculous, but that’s just what Semolina is. Even though a chicken isn’t exactly what he had in mind when he was thinking about a pet, his Dad, Tucker has rescued her from certain death in the henhouse and asks Josh if he wants to take care of her. Josh knows her – everyone knows her. She is a mean-spirited, sarcastic, sassy chicken. And now, she talks?

Josh’s mom is in the hospital about to give birth to his sister, and Gran comes to the farm to cook and organize their lives. Gran just plain hates that hen, and Tucker doesn’t really believe in talking chickens, especially since Semolina won’t talk in front of anyone but Josh. But when Semolina tells him that a fox is sneaking into the hen house at night,  Josh needs to get his dad to believe in Semolina before it’s too late. Semolina isn’t quite Charlotte the Spider, but in the tradition of Charlotte’s Web, Chicken Feathers is full of tender moments, sparkling humor, and classic black-and-white illustrations.

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If there is a book you loved and you want others to know about it, you can write a blurb! You can email it to me (or you can do it the old-fashioned way and write it up on a piece of paper) and it will be added to this page! Just don’t give away any Spoilers!

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